A recent commentary by Gerald A. Alfred in the spring 1991 edition of the Northeast Indian Quarterly dealt with a subject matter which is either ignored or radically exaggerated when it is broached in Indian Country: political fragmentation (or segments or cleavages) and ideological conflict within North American Indian tribes and the ramifications of such internal conflict on tribal identity.

This paper, after restating Alfred's major points about Mohawk segmentation at Kahnawake, describes and then analyzes a viable alternative democratic decision-making model which has been specifically designed to address the problems of how not only to restore, but also to maintain stability in politically, socially, and culturally fragmented societies. The model is consociational democracy (it is also sometimes referred to as power-sharing, amicable agreement, or consensus decision-making), and it is this author's contention that this institutional arrangement of consensual decision-making has significant potential to address the increasing level of fragmentation that threatens to engulf (and has already engulfed) some tribal societies. We argue that the premises behind the power sharing model-elite cooperation, consensus decision-making, grand coalitions, etc.,—are particularly apropos because they intuitively and historically fit well with the historic traditions of unanimity and accommodation that has characterized indigenous communities for millennia.

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Copyright © 1992 American Indian Program, Cornell University. This article first appeared in Akwe:kon Journal (Fall 1992), 33-39.

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